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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Gina Rossi reports back on London Book Fair 2016

After the Fair: Gina Rossi reflects on her first visit to the London Book Fair, 2016

At the Quantum 16 Conference, the launch pad of the London Book Fair held the day before the opening, Baroness Gail Rebuck, D.B.E., and Chair of Penguin Random House UK, reminds those present that it is still stories and the people who write them that underpins absolutely everything in the publishing industry. With this in mind, I step into the vast main hall at Kensington Olympia, on Tuesday 12th April 2016, ready for my first book fair ever, and pause to marvel.

Do I speak for all writers when I say we rarely have an opportunity to feel special? We spend stacks of time doubting our ability. It’s our job to worry, to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’. Yet here I am, surrounded by – literally – millions of books, trillions of words, each and every one written by a successful author. How inspiring is that? Right now, I feel special.

Onward, and this is what it must be like for a bee inside a hive. Everyone’s working, or walking with purpose. A few, like me, are standing alone, gawking. All around, rising to the lofty iron girders of the exhibition hall, the steady hum of thousands of earnest voices pitching, presenting, selling and promoting. Ridiculous as it sounds, there are books everywhere – on tables, shelves, racks and counters. Everywhere.

Jeffrey Archer
First things first. Within the massive hive, I make a beeline for Author HQ, except I don’t. It’s not that easy. Even with the handy floorplan I get lost, and wander, happily distracted by the surroundings. There’s no logic to the layout that I can see; it’s not like children’s book publishers are together in one area, with cookery books somewhere else. What a feast for the eyes! Here’s a publisher of colouring-in books, including the fabulous ones created by Millie Marotta, and there’s a place you can take a hologram selfie with the Bard himself, while over at FCM Media there’s a book being written ‘live’, contributions welcome. As for the English Pen Salon, you could sit there all day listening to short talks by Jeffrey Archer, Marian Keyes, Jeanette Winterson, Tracy Chevalier, Julian Fellowes… I could go on.

Author HQ
A quirk of fate (read ‘eavesdropping in the loo’) leads me to Author HQ, where I meet best-selling author and writing colleague, Louise Rose-Innes. There she is, smiling, calm, and elegant – the personification of a tall glass of cool water in the hot hurly-burly of the crowd. I’ve known Louise online for several years but this is the first time we’ve met, and it’s an absolute highlight. Immediately, I feel like I’m connecting with a good friend.


Louise Rose-Innes and Gina Rossi

We talk about everything: the fair, ROSA (www.romancewriters.co.za – we’re both members), Louise’s brand new release A Passion So Wild, London, South Africa, Romance Writers of America (www.rwa.org), family, children, education, success and failure, The Wild Rose Press (www.wildrosepublishing.com), editing, publishers and publishing, book covers, writing, writing and writing. We finally said goodbye after a visit to the Kindle Direct Publishing stand where we popped in to a warm welcome by Darren who answered questions and gave advice freely.
“Never forget,” he said, “that there are only two people in this business of publishing: the writer and the reader.”

That said, day over, heads full of advice, ideas and inspiration, Louise and I parted company, and went home to write. Will I go to the London Book Fair next year? Absolutely yes!
Who’s coming with me?

A random summing up, and notes to self for 2017:
  1. Author HQ had a range of writing and publishing gems to offer (the newbie writer in particular), by way of lectures and panel discussions. It’s a great place to start.
  2. Each day, Twitter was positively red-hot with latest publishing news, invitations, screenings, readings, book launches, signings, and plenty more. Keep an eye on that and adapt your visit accordingly (if you’ve got a bit of time right now, take a break and enjoy all the highlights here: http://twitter.com/LondonBookFair - go back to 11th April, at least).
  3. It was warm in there. The sun came out, beating through the massive glass barrel roof, turning the venue into a hothouse (it was built in 1886 as an agricultural hall). Wear thin layers, and keep taking them off. 
  4. I didn’t get sore feet, I realised the day after. I got sore everything! My step-counting app registered 14052 steps on day one. Be prepared.
  5. Seating was sometimes limited. Louise and I discussed taking along a golf stick next time, or a folding stool! There were no huge queues at the loos as some would lead you to believe, at least not when I went. Likewise, no unreasonable queues for food / drinks.
  6. Don’t listen to those who say you can’t pitch to an agent or publisher at the LBF. You can, to some, but you need to approach them well in advance. So: 
    1. - Select the agents / publishers you wish to approach.
      - Send a polite email asking whether they'll be exhibiting and whether or not they'll be taking pitches.
      - If they are, make appointments and be super punctual come the day.
      - Take along exactly what they request.

    Finally: Smile. Connect and communicate. Feed off the energy and enthusiasm of the event. Take in as much as you can. Be inspired. Go home and write. Feel special.

    More information on Gina Rossi and Louise Rose Innes can be found at http://ginaginarossi.wix.com/gina-rossi-website and http://louiseroseinnes.co.uk/


    Panel discussion at Author HQ

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful post, Gina. You really captured the atmosphere of the place. I was still buzzing the next day. It's almost like the energy from all those words, all those books and all those busy industry professionals seeps into your bones and inspires and revitalises you! It was a pleasure to meet you and I hope to see you there again next year!

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